ANN ARBOR – At their meeting on Wednesday May 6th, The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved three resolutions totaling $9.9 million to fundamental, human services and crisis and permanent supportive housing during the next phase of the Covid-19 emergency response. The board is making substantial investments in human services and mental health and Wednesday’s board actions support this priority. The Board also approved hazard pay for first responders through an agreement with the Police Officers Association of Michigan, which represents county law enforcement officers such as sheriff’s deputies, court officers and correction officers. It is anticipated that the financial effects of the Covid-19 emergency will have a great impact on residents and the Board is hoping that tonight’s actions will help provide opportunities for stability, particularly amongst those who are hardest hit in the county.
“It is critical that we ensure the safety of every resident of Washtenaw County and we are working to make sure that no resident of our community is left behind during this crisis.” said Board Chair Jason Morgan. “The actions we have taken will ensure that Washtenaw County residents have access to the resources to keep their families safe and healthy. We still have a long road ahead of us as we navigate the economic, physical and mental health challenges of this pandemic but we are so proud of our dedicated and hardworking county staff.”
“These three resolutions are an instrumental part of the Board of Commissioners’ responsibility to create policies and to provide resources through an equity lens,” added Board Vice Chair Ricky Jefferson. “They’re designed to perpetuate our vision of a more equitable society and they are ways to provide effective solutions that will help bridge the gaps of social and economic disparities for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life of all County citizens.”
HUD Urban County Action Plan amendment- In response to the COVID-19 national emergency, the Federal Government provided additional support to communities through the CARES Act. The Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED) serves as steward for some of these resources and is re-focusing efforts on helping residents to secure permanent housing. A portion of the CARES Act funding flows through Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and reaches communities though the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG). The CDBG grant allocation to the Washtenaw Urban County is in the amount of $1,267,964 and will be used to create and expand activities that serve low – moderate income communities and those with urgent housing needs. The ESG allocation is in the amount of $643,403 to assist those experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The awards will allow OCED to work with clients to quickly regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis or homelessness. “We must keep residents in their homes and provide safe housing for those experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity during this difficult time,” said Jason Morgan, Chair of the Board of Commissioners, who also serves as Chair of the Washtenaw Urban County Executive Committee. “The Urban County Executive Committee held a special meeting last week to expedite getting these funds directly to our residents in need and our swift action tonight further expedited getting resources to our residents.”
Public safety and Mental Health Millage- Supportive Housing Funding Awards (OCED) –
The Board voted to allocate Supportive Housing Awards to several community partner organizations using funds from the Public Safety and Mental Health millage. On recommendations from the CMH Advisory Committee, the awards, totaling just under $1.3M over three years, were granted to Avalon Housing, the Washtenaw County Shelter Association, the Ypsilanti Housing Commission and Ozone House. The organizations will use the funds towards supportive housing initiatives as well as crisis and prevention housing for youth in the county. “The need is now,” Katie Scott, Chair of the Ways and Means committee shared, “and we cannot wait on providing help to these essential services in our county. Providing consistent support for housing services is important even in so-called normal times, and even more so now in the age of COVID-19. When we have residents in crisis, it is imperative that we have the ability to help them, and I am proud of our Board of Commissioners for understanding this need and approving these funds.”
CMH Deficit Elimination Plan- The resolution, sponsored by Board Chair Jason Morgan and Ways and Means Chair Katie Scott, addresses Community Mental Health’s $8.1M shortfall. In February of 2019, when it was discovered that CMH would end the fiscal year in a deficit, the Mental Health Financial Taskforce was established to find viable solutions for addressing the debt and recommending a plan to the Board. The taskforce discovered that the shortfall was less than the original estimate of $10M. The adopted plan uses $2M of general fund property tax revenue to pay off the debt over four years.
Board Chair Morgan shared, “This is a significant, yet necessary, investment in mental health services in our community. I want folks to understand that we are making a conscious decision to invest $8.1 million to support mental health services for our residents, because it is the right thing to do. We are allocating general fund dollars in addition to the $3.1 million that we allocated for the FY 2020 budget, and the allocation is from the general fund rather than taking funds from the existing mental health services. Last year, the board of commissioners made difficult decisions to ensure the long-term stability of our Community Mental Health Department because we knew this deficit was coming and we had to be prepared for it.”
Administrator Gregory Dill added, “I’m proud of the county’s collaborative relationship with our Community Mental Health partners, and I’m thankful for the work of the Task Force. We all worked together to identify a practical solution that serves to remedy CMH’s budgetary shortfalls while helping them to maintain a high level of service to our most vulnerable community members. Absent the leadership and guidance from the Board of Commissioners, identifying a workable solution such as this would have been incredibly challenging.”